Friday, April 17, 2015

Backing Out of It

Yellow circle around a mechanism screw on a Powell SonarĂ© 601.

Have you ever had a screw back out of the mechanism tubing on your flute?  On a student's flute?  If so, you are certainly not alone!  Powell's Director of Marketing, Christina Guiliano-Cobas, has a private studio, and one of the younger students had this issue.  The screw was backing out of the tubing on the thumb key, specifically.  So, what do you do? Well, we checked with repair technician Rachel Baker to find out...

Rachel told us that this is an easy fix.  You can get a small "eyeglass screwdriver kit" and use the screwdriver to turn the screw back in place.  As you'll see from the video, she holds the key steady, braces the screwdriver against her thumb, and then screws in the screw!  It doesn't go in very far, and she told us that you'll feel when it's tightly in place.


However -- a word of caution.  As soon as a screw backs out, Rachel says you should call your repair technician and make an appointment.  She told us, "If a screw backs out, there's a reason for it."  In fact, it is the sign of a problem that should be addressed by the technician.  Rachel says that screws back out because something is preventing the key from turning freely on the mechanism.  It could be a few things, like too much key oil that has gotten "gooped up" in the tubing or some kind of bend or snag in either the mechanism tubing or inner steel.  If a student accidentally bumps his/her flute against something like a stand or drops the flute, it could bend the mechanism tubing and/or steel.   This causes "drag" in the key that might not be noticeable by the player, but as s/he continues to play, the motion will push the screw out.

So, don't be afraid to carefully screw the backed out screw into place -- for now.  When you take your flute to the repair technician, s/he will be able to smooth out any snags (literally and figuratively), and you should be all set!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Piccolo Overhaul

This week, our repair technician, Rachel Baker, was working on a piccolo overhaul when we stopped by to see her. Specifically, she was working on overhauling a Custom kingwood piccolo with silver keys.  Hmm.... Piccolo overhaul? We were very curious, and (of course) we wanted to find out more, so we asked!

Rachel says piccolos are usually overhauled much less frequently than flutes because (in comparison) they are played less.  It can be several years between overhauls for a piccolo. The overhaul includes changing all the pads, bumpers, and key adjustments.  She also oils the mechanism and replaces the tenon cork.

Another important part of the piccolo overhaul is the oiling of the body and headjoint.  Rachel oils both the bore and the outside of the piccolo.  This is best left to a professional, but Rachel tells us that it is okay for piccolo owners to oil the area of the headjoint around the embouchure since it gets so much wear.  You'll want to be very careful if you oil this area, and Rachel recommends pure pressed almond oil.  She says that if a little bit gets in the embouchure hole, you can simply wipe carefully around the edge with a Q-tip.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Getting Settled

A few weeks ago, we met with Powell's Repair Technician, Rachel Baker, to help explain why repairs take more than a day (follow this link to read the previous post).  She mentioned that things need to "settle," and when the flute is done changing, it's ready to go back to its owner.  Settling -- hmmm....  We were curious about which parts of the flute need to settle after repair, so we asked!

Rachel told us that every layer you add to the flute needs to settle.  This mainly refers to pads and key adjustments.  Both the pads and the adjustments are made with natural materials that will compress as the flute is played.  The pads have a natural skin covering, and the adjustments are either paper or cork.  These natural materials compress from the light pressure of your fingers closing the keys (which then presses the pad onto the edge of the tone hole) and the motion of the keys working together.  

We also appreciated Rachel's metaphor for understanding the "settling" process.  She summed it up nicely by saying, "Pads take a while to find their home." So, whether a pad is replaced and shimmed or an existing pad is shimmed, it takes a while for the pad to settle once it is positioned back into its home -- the key cup!  And as for the adjustments, they need time to work with the keys in the mechanism.  Once the pads and adjustments are done compressing and "settled to where they are going to stay," the flute is ready! Rachel said that at this point, everything will stay stable for about a year, depending on how much you play (could be longer if you don't play much or shorter if you're doing a lot of playing). Then, it will be time to send in your flute for a C.O.A., and your flute will once again be settled in nicely before it comes back to you!

Rachel checking pad seating 

Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Repair Warranty

When you purchase a new Powell flute or piccolo, the instrument comes with a one-year warranty (which you can read about by following this link to our previous post on the warranty).  In addition to this warranty, repair work is covered under a warranty as well, as you will see below:
C.O.A.s are covered by a 30 day warranty and overhauls are covered by a 90 day warranty. If your flute is overhauled with Straubinger pads, pad seating is covered under the warranty; with felt pads, seating is not covered. The warranty is void if anyone other than Powell (unless approved in advance) works on the instrument during this period.
Much like the instrument warranty, if someone other than Powell works on your instrument during the repair warranty period, this warranty may be voided.  This is because it would not be possible for our repair department to evaluate and assess our original repair work if additional work is done afterwards by someone else.  So, if you have questions about your instrument after receiving it back from repair at Powell, make sure to call our repair department right away.  The work is covered under warranty, and our repair technician will be happy to help!

Friday, March 20, 2015

No Extras Needed

So you're done with a rehearsal or practice session, fold your polishing cloth neatly, place it over your flute, and close the case.  No problem, right?  Well, actually, we had a student flute in the repair shop this week, and when our Repair Technician, Rachel Baker, opened the case, she noticed a cloth over the flute, which prompted this little reminder...

Don't put anything in your flute case except the flute.  If you have a cloth covering the flute, it will press against the keys when you close the case.  Rachel mentioned that polishing cloths can be kind of bulky, and not only do they exert unnecessary pressure on the mechanism, they can also get caught on key pads, causing the pads to tear.  As for other items -- maybe a swabstick, pencil, etc. -- if they are placed in the case, they can move around, bumping into the flute and causing damage.

Placing additional items in the case outside of the flute is definitely not a good thing -- and placing them inside the flute is also a no-no.  You don't want to leave your swab in the flute after your are done swabbing out.  Rachel says, "You get all the moisture out, and then you put it back in" if you leave the swab in the flute.

There is one exception to the rule -- an anti-tarnish square.  These can be placed on the flat area of the case on the far left, as you'll see in the photo below.  Other than this small anti-tarnish square (usually a strip or a very small sponge-like material), make sure there are no "extra" items in the case or on the flute.  Remembering the simple rule of "nothing goes in the case except the flute" should keep your flute happy and healthy!

Anti-tarnish square is on flat spot on the far left of the case (next to body tenon).

Friday, March 13, 2015

Retrofit D# Roller

We stopped by the repair shop this week to chat with Repair Technician, Rachel Baker.  One of her customers asked if there are any "adverse effects" to adding a D# roller to your flute.  Adverse effects... Hmm...  So, we wondered if that meant sound or aesthetics.  Rachel told us that in terms of sound, aesthetics, and mechanics, there is no downside to retrofitting a D# roller to your flute.  Why is this?  Well, it's because the only thing required for this is a different D# spatula, which is part of the full key mechanism.  We have D# spatulas with and without a roller, so it's pretty much a part swap-out and not a change for the existing spatula.  No need to worry that you'll have a "Frankenflute" with mismatched or oddly customized parts.  If you're interested in getting a D# roller, it's perfectly safe, and it will certainly not change the aesthetics, sound, or mechanics of your flute. Also, the D# roller is available for flutes with silver keys or gold keys.

Yellow circle around the D# spatula (without a roller) on a 9k Custom flute.
A 9k Custom flute with a D# spatula that has a roller.  This is what a "retrofit" D# roller would look like.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Braiding the Zipper Pull

One question we received recently was about the zipper pull on our leather Powell case covers.  We know it gets much wear and tear and has come unraveled for some Powell owners. Our repair technician was even stumped, but she did offer the recommendation of contacting craft stores or other people who may have experience making braided jewelry.  After a bit more research, we discovered that a trip to the craft store may not be needed -- you can watch video tutorials!

The braid is a 4-strand "diamond braid" or "round braid."  We hope the videos below will help. You'll have two middle strands and two outer strands.  Each outer strand will go back around the two middle strands and then through them. You'll do this in succession, alternating the outer strands. It's much easier to watch, though!  One thing we could not find was how to tie the end of the braid.  From what we've seen, it looks like a regular knot should work, but feel free to explore the web for some more intricate knots.